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Common Buttonbush

Cephalanthus occidentalis


Common buttonbush is a multi-stemmed shrub which grows 6-12 ft. or occasionally taller. Leaves in pairs or in threes, petiolate; blade up to 8 inches long, ovate to narrower, sometimes 1/3 or less as wide as long, with a pointed tip and rounded to tapered base, smooth margins and glossy upper surface, lower surface duller. Glossy, dark-green leaves lack significant fall color. Flowers small, borne in distinctive, dense, spherical clusters (heads) with a fringe of pistils protruded beyond the white corollas. Long-lasting, unusual blossoms are white or pale-pink, one-inch globes. Subsequent rounded masses of nutlets persist through the winter. Trunks are often twisted. Spreading, much-branched shrub or sometimes small tree with many branches (often crooked and leaning), irregular crown, balls of white flowers resembling pincushions, and buttonlike balls of fruit. This picture shows the remaining dried fruit after the plant has dropped its leaves.


In swamps, around ponds and margins of streams throughout the state. Sand, loam, clay, limestone; moist, poor drainage or standing water okay. Prairie swales; lake, marsh, creek & swamp margins; dry, limestone bluffs. This one was photographed at the constructed stork ponds at the Silver Bluff Audubon Center near Jackson (Aiken County), SC.


Buttonbush is a handsome ornamental suited to wet soils and is also a honey plant. Ducks and other water birds and shorebirds consume the seeds. The poisonous foliage of this abundant and widespread species is unpalatable to livestock. The bitter bark has served in home remedies, but its medicinal value is doubtful.

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Spotted by

South Carolina, USA

Spotted on Nov 16, 2013
Submitted on Feb 9, 2014

Spotted for Mission

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